When Tennessee goalkeeper Vanessa Phillips-Bosshart stepped out to defend a shot at the top of the key Sunday, Southern Cal sophomore Tracy Lansing managed to maintain possession of the ball and send it into an empty Lady Vol goal to cut the UT lead to 2-1.
But that goal was the first in a long time.
Lansing's goal - with 15 minutes remaining in Sunday's final game of the Lady Vol Classic - marked the first goal allowed by the Lady Vols in 325 minutes, 24 seconds.
After opening up the season by giving up three goals against Duke before coming back to win, 4-3, Tennessee lost, 2-1, in its second outing at Washington. Since then, Phillips-Bosshart and the defense have allowed only one goal in three games.
"It has been really exciting to watch," UT coach Angela Kelly said. "Our defense has been really coming together over these past few games."
After losing three starters from last year's defense - Tracy and Carie Swibas and Marie Eve Nault - the Lady Vols revamped their defensive alignment to open the season. Led by senior All-American Keeley Dowling and bolstered by some new faces, the defense is presenting problems for opponents.
Kelly said her defense is producing good results because the individual parts are strong and working smoothly together.
"Keeley is special," Kelly said. "She has stepped up over the past few games and really become a leader for us.
"She had a fantastic game against North Carolina on Friday and she came through with a great goal against USC."
Though a senior leads them, a freshman has been turning heads on UT's defense over the first few games. A rookie out of Germantown, Erica Griffin has shown signs of the dominance that Dowling displays each game.
"She may not always do the right thing tactically," Kelly said, "but she gives 100 percent when she is out on the field.
"She uses her body well and hasn't been beaten one-on-one this season."
In almost 408 minutes minding the net this season, Phillips-Bosshart has garnered a 1.10 goals-allowed average, while shutting out Washington State and top-ranked North Carolina.
Against the Tar Heels, she had seven saves going up against an offense that included Olympians Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O'Reilly.
The efforts of Dowling, Griffin and Phillips-Bosshart earned them All-Tournament team honors following this weekend's Lady Vol Classic. Dowling was named as the tournament's Defensive MVP.
Kelly, though, has been just as impressed with two other pieces of her defense.
Jenny Jeffers, who played sparingly at midfielder last season as a freshman, has seen significant playing time at defender this season.
Her ability to take the move in stride has impressed her coach.
"She is doing a great job at a new position," Kelly said. "She's handling the move to defense very well for us, which we needed her to do."
Sophomore Melissa Amado rejoins the defense after starting for much of her freshman year. Her progress this season has been held back some by an injury, but still stalks the movement of opposing offenses.
"She's playing through pain," Kelly said, "to try and help this team."
With all the pieces fitting together, UT has produced a defense that, thus far, has been hard for opponents to overcome.
Published: Tue Sep 14, 2004 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 06:22 p.m.